BMW 3 Series Touring Review
The BMW 3 Series Touring goes to show that big, boxy estate cars can still be good fun to drive. If you need the biggest boot going, though, there are better options.
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Sporty SUVs aren’t the only fun-to-drive family cars that combine spacious cabins and big boots. Estate cars such as the BMW 3 Series Touring are just as practical, often cost less to run and prove more entertaining to drive on a twisty backroad.
Sure, the BMW 3 Series Touring doesn’t have quite the same street-cred as a high-riding X3, but its angular front end, gaping intakes and real exhaust tips help it out-do the likes of the Mercedes C-Class Estate and Audi A4 Avant in the styling stakes – especially in M Sport guise.
It’s a similar story inside, where the BMW 3 Series Touring’s low-slung seats, sweeping dashboard and tall centre console make you feel a bit like you’re cocooned in a slinky sportscar.
Unlike most sportscars, however, you get loads of plush-feeling materials and one of the best infotainment systems in the business with a slick touchscreen and a digital display in place of analogue dials.
So, there’s no doubt it comes packed with modern creature comforts, but (thankfully) this doesn’t mean the BMW 3 Series Touring’s cabin feels like a cramped Currys stockroom. There’s loads of room for you to stretch out in the front and ample space for tall passengers to get comfy in the back.
Fitting a child seat won’t present any problems if you carry very young passengers and there’s space for boatloads of family bits and bobs in the BMW 3 Series Touring’s boot. Sure, the TARDIS-like Skoda Superb is roomier still, but a couple of bikes will fit easily in the BMW 3 Series Touring once you’ve flipped the back seats down.
The BMW 3 Series Touring has always been the fun option if you’re looking for a practical family estate, but now it’s also one of the most high-tech and spacious models out there.
Whatever you’re carrying won’t be bounced around in the back thanks to the BMW 3 Series Touring’s comfortable suspension. It deals with potholes very well and stops the Touring’s body from leaning in tight corners.
M Sport models with their bigger wheels and lowered suspension feel sportier still, but if you do plenty of long motorway journeys you’ll be better off sticking with the standard car and opting for a 2.0-litre diesel engine. There’s also a smoother, more powerful 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel unit and a range of petrol engines including a seriously quick M340i model and a fuel-sipping 330e hybrid.
Some versions come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but the smooth eight-speed automatic is well worth paying extra for; it’s one of the best ‘boxes around and helps make light work of heavy traffic.
There are also plenty of high-tech driver assistance systems available that’ll let you while away long journeys without feeling too tired, but they do cost extra.
This is a common theme throughout the BMW 3 Series Touring; it’s an excellent family car that’s practical, comfortable and good fun to drive, but be prepared to hand over a bit of extra cash for some must-have options. If you do, you’ll find it’s one of the very best estate cars on sale.
The BMW 3 Series Touring is roomy inside and has ample space in its big boot for everyone’s luggage. Some less sporty estates are even more spacious, however.
The BMW 3 Series Touring’s cabin strikes an excellent balance between being comfortable and making you feel like you’re cocooned without being cramped.
You’ll have plenty of space to stretch out in the BMW 3 Series Touring’s front seats, even if you’re very tall. There’s a decent amount of seat adjustment as standard, but you do have to pay extra for two-way adjustable lumbar support to help prevent backache on long drives.
The back seats aren’t quite as spacious as those in the front but there’s still enough room for a six-foot-tall passenger to sit behind an equally lofty driver. There’s space for them to tuck their feet under the front seat – even in its lowest position – and the seat-back padding extends all the way outward to the rear doors.
Space isn’t so generous in the central rear seat, however. There’s a very large lump in the rear floor that makes it tricky to climb into the middle and the raised seat base will have most tall adults brushing their head against the roof. At least there’s just about enough shoulder space to carry three adults in the back at once and three kids will have more than enough room to get comfy.
Carrying very young children won’t present any headaches, either. The wide rear door openings make it easy to lift in a child seat and the standard Isofix anchor points are easy to access beneath a set of folding covers.
There are plenty of roomy storage spaces dotted about the BMW 3 Series Touring’s cabin to help you keep it looking tidy. Each of the four door bins is big enough to carry a 500ml bottle and there’s room for a slightly smaller bottle in the glovebox.
You can tuck a few large phones under the central armrest and you’ll be able to carry all but the largest service-station coffees in the two hidden cupholders ahead of the gear lever. There’s also a 12V socket and a USB port with space to store your phone while it’s charging.
You get a pair of USB ports in the back seats, but they’re of the newer USB Type C shape, so won’t work with older cables. There’s also a folding armrest in the back with a pair of pop-out cupholders.
The BMW 3 Series Touring has 500 litres of boot space. That’s just shy of what the Audi A4 Avant can carry but significantly roomier than the boots you get in a Mercedes C-Class Estate or Volvo V60.
There’s no load lip and the wide, square boot opening makes it a doddle to load large, heavy items. You can remove the load cover and store it in a dedicated slot under the boot floor if you need to carry some tall boxes, too.
The BMW 3 Series Touring’s back seats fold down in a three-way (40:20:40) split as standard, so you can slide some long luggage through from the boot between two back-seat passengers.
Fold all three seats down (which you can do using optional buttons by the boot opening) and the BMW 3 Series has a completely flat 1,510-litre load bay. It’s just as spacious as an Audi A4 Avant and capable of carrying far more than a Mercedes C-Class Estate or Volvo V60 so you’ll have no trouble carrying a bike with both its wheels attached. For even bulkier luggage, however, you’ll be better off with the cavernous Skoda Superb Estate.
Just like in the larger 5 Series Touring, you can raise the BMW 3 Series Touring’s rear window independently to throw in a few last-minute items without having to lift the whole bootlid. You can also get a set of rubber strips in the boot floor that lower to let you slide in heavy boxes and rise up when you close the bootlid to grip them securely.
The BMW 3 Series Touring is comfortable, fun-to-drive and comes with a wide range of engines, but many of its advanced driver-assistance systems cost extra.
You can get the BMW 3 Series Touring with three petrol and two diesel engines, and soon there’ll be a plug-in hybrid model, too. Depending on which version you pick, you can get a manual or automatic gearbox, and rear- or four-wheel drive.
If you do mostly short trips around town, the petrol-powered 320i is your best bet. This 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine produces 184hp and accelerates from 0-60mph in less than 7.6 seconds. BMW claims it’ll return close to 45mpg, and you should be able to comfortably manage more than 40mpg.
Fancy something a little faster? You should consider a 330i with a 258hp version of the 320i’s engine that helps it sprint from 0-60mph in less than six seconds. With careful use of the accelerator, you should be able to return similar fuel economy to 320i versions, too.
The fuel-economy king, however, is the 330e plug-in hybrid model. This pairs a 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to produce 252hp while returning a claimed 122.8mpg. Sure, you’ll have to brim its batteries and drive with the patience of a saint to get anywhere close to that figure, but you won’t have any trouble matching the 330e’s 0-60mph sprint time of close to six seconds.
It’s not all about performance, though. Each charge allows you to drive for more than 40 miles using just the electric motor – ideal if you have a relatively short commute and have somewhere to charge your car at night and during the day.
If you do plenty of long motorway journeys, you should take a look at the diesel engines, instead. These come in 318d, 320d and 330d varieties fitted with 2.0-litre four- and 3.0-litre six-cylinder engines.
The 320d is the pick of the range if you’re after a relaxing cruiser that’s cheap to run and relatively economical. It accelerates from 0-60mph much faster than the 318d in around seven seconds yet (claims BMW) returns close to 60mpg.
The six-cylinder 330d is smoother and faster – sprinting from 0-60mph takes less than 5.5 seconds in four-wheel-drive versions – but it can’t quite match the 320d’s fuel economy. That being said, you’ll still manage close to 50mpg in normal driving conditions.
If it’s outright speed you’re after, the six-cylinder, 3.0-litre M340i petrol is the car to go for. It’ll crack the 0-60mph sprint in less than 4.5 seconds and it comes with a sports exhaust system to make it sound distinctly more sporty than other 3 Series Touring models. It also comes with a smooth and responsive eight-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive as standard.
The automatic gearbox is well worth paying extra for on other 3 Series Touring models, but unless you live somewhere prone to particularly nasty winter weather, you can do without the xDrive four-wheel-drive system.
The BMW 3 Series Touring is very easy to drive. You get a good view out through the front windscreen and rear visibility is better than in the standard 3 Series thanks to the Touring’s larger rear windows.
You get parking sensors, a reversing camera and BMW’s parking assistant system that’ll steer you into parallel and bay parking spaces automatically as standard. There’s even an optional reversing assistant feature that’ll store your steering inputs for up to 50 meters and use them to steer you out of narrow car parks.
Once you’ve left the multistory, you’ll find the BMW 3 Series Touring does a good job ironing out bumps in rutted city streets. Some clever suspension dampers take the jarring edge of even the most monstrous potholes and even sportier M Sport cars with their lower, stiffer suspension are impressively comfortable to travel in.
Things get even more relaxing if you pay extra for the Adaptive M Suspension that lets you choose between firmer, sportier setups or more cushioned, comfortable ones. Put it in comfort to while away long motorway journeys or press the Sport button to stop the BMW 3 Series Touring’s body leaning in tight roads.
The steering also feels weightier in Sport mode, which gives you a little extra confidence on tight, twisty roads. There’s also a clever rear differential which helps send the engine’s power to whichever wheel has the most grip to help you blast from one hairpin turn to the next. All this combines to make the BMW 3 Series Touring much more fun to drive on a deserted country road than the Audi A4 Avant, Volvo V60 or Mercedes C-Class Estate.
The BMW 3 Series Touring soaks up motorways as easily as it dispatches a deserted country road. You’ll hear very little wind and tyre noise at speed and you can get plenty of advanced driver assistance systems to help make cross-country trips feel like popping to the shops.
Cruise control comes as standard, and you can get an upgraded system that’ll accelerate, brake and steer for you to keep you a constant distance behind other traffic and safely within your lane on the motorway.
The BMW 3 Series Touring’s interior feels very posh and comes with plenty of high-tech features, but it doesn’t look as snazzy as the cabins in some alternatives.
BMW 3 Series Touring colours